1.28.2010

1.27.10 Reviews (Part 2)

Northlanders #24 (DC/Vertigo): One of the things I like about Leandro Fernandez’s pencils here is how seldom we see the eyes of the characters. More often than not, they’re obscured in shadow and that lends a dark emotional gravitas to the work. He lays on an impressive level of detail, from the varied designs on the shields of the men assembled in The Great Hall, to capturing the disturbing sequence of dead frozen bodies, to the forced perspective shot of a bloody sword that pierces the panel border and juts out toward the reader. What can I say about Brian Wood’s immaculate writing that I haven’t before? He seems to do so many of the things I enjoy about Northlanders in this issue. I particularly enjoyed Hilda’s careful word choices and management of Thorir’s offers; she’s proving to be one of the smartest and most capable women found in Brian Wood’s growing stable of smart, capable women. I enjoyed his examination of sometimes diametrically opposed competing paradigms. The deliberations between Gunborg and Boris still emphasize men of two worlds overlapping to determine the wisest course of action. It’s a battle of science and reason vs. faith and emotion. It’s a fight between the greater good and the ambition of one man. It’s an internal battle of clashing religious philosophy, in the face of “The White Christ” and Christianity’s growing hold on the known world, some men still cling to the existence of “The Old Gods.” Wood delivers prose like “The winged Valkyries, their armor flashing in the cold air…” which possess a rich and charming poetic quality. It’s interesting to see the manner in which Gunborg begrudgingly enforces the practices Boris suggests with his troop of men or his acquiescence to the quarantine restrictions. It begs the questions – what is his unknown end goal? What is his relationship with the settlement down river? That mystery makes his return play not as triumphantly as he would purport, but as a possible harbinger of doom, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Grade A.

Echo #19 (Abstract Studio): It’s interesting to note that the opening quote is not from Einstein, Oppenheimer, or any atomic scientist, as has been the case in all of the previous issues. This time it’s a more humanitarian social observation about man’s nature courtesy of (my favorite American author) Ernest Hemingway. That’s a deliberate choice since it fits in perfectly with the tone and cold hard nature of this particular issue. As for the story, we see Julie continue to learn how to commune with the consciousness of Annie still trapped in the remnants of her suit. Terry Moore’s starry night sky sets the mood, with a dreamlike quality. Moore is able to have so much meaning relayed via silent panels or reliance on emotive facial expressions. I don’t mean to gush, but the book is just so beautiful to behold. I love Terry Moore’s women. I love their realistic looks, their reactions, and their strength. I love that they can carry a book all on their own, while the male characters take on supporting roles. I love the dynamics of their relationships with each other, and their believable speech patterns. Ivy and Julie are momentarily holed up waiting to make their next play, while the motives and direction become clear for all of the other loose threads: Cain, HeNRI employees, Dan and Dillon, they’re all juggled deftly. And don’t think for a second that interpersonal dynamics are all that Terry Moore can rock. The shootout in the bar is a terrific action sequence, with loads of detail and energy. He pulls a clever trick where he links the sound effects from panel to panel, page to page, to alert the reader what’s happening in a previous scene while you’ve flipped the page and moved onto the next scene. Part of my training in a past life, it’s something I just do subconsciously on autopilot, is to count shots being fired. In the heat of the moment, this can be critical and something you easily blank out on under duress, so the training kicks in and this tells you when either you (or someone else) will need to reload, depending on the type of firearm they might have. I noticed the HeNRI assassin was popping off round after round, chuckled to myself, and decided to go back and count them, thinking I’d catch Terry Moore in a little mistake, one that you so commonly see on TV, assailants comically popping off round after round, shot after shot, 5, 10, 20, 30 even, while never stopping to reload. It’s remarkable to me that the assassin fires exactly 15 shots from his handgun before tossing it aside, which is typically the maximum capacity of any handgun with an extended capacity magazine available only to military or law enforcement personnel. That’s attention to detail, man. It’s proof yet again of why Terry Moore is an absolute craftsman. Grade A.

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